All Posts (814)

S is for Survivor

Survivor trees are locally revered as symbols of hope. These trees support communities' recovery by embodying hope and strength. The Callery pear in New York City and the Oklahoma City American Elm tree are two famous trees cherished for reflecting the courage and spirit of the affected communities.

Trees around the world have survived incredible feats. Before the bombing in 1995, a poorly managed/maintained American Elm tree provided sparse amounts of shade from a small parking lot of downtown Oklahoma City. This tree spent its days surrounded by concrete and cars. After the national tragedy (1995) destroyed buildings and lives, this 80-year-old tree was the only thing standing amidst explosions and fire.

Community members, survivors, rescue workers, and the community came together to save and honor the tree, making the preservation of Survivor Tree an integral part of the mission statement of the Memorial site. This elm now thrives as it stands guard at the national memorial, protecting the memory of those who lost their lives. The inscription in Oklahoma City, "the spirit of this city, and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us."

American Grove committee member, Mark Bays, is the Oklahoma Urban Forestry Coordinator who made a special connection with this tree. Mark made it his mission to protect the Survivor Tree during and after the construction of the National Memorial. Bays worked to see that the tree had a proper aeration and watering system throughout this construction period.

Ground crew and facilities management at the memorial regularly collect the Survivor tree's seeds for the distribution of hundreds of samplings every year. This tree now grows throughout the US. Survivor trees are uniquely cherished within and beyond their communities.

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Trees with Knees

The Cupressaceae family, includes some of the world’s most ancient trees, some dating back to over 150 million years ago. Famous members of this family include the coastal redwood, giant sequoias, and bald cypress. The redwoods and sequoias certainly have their claim to fame, but what is so special about bald cypress trees?

In addition to the bald cypress being the state tree of the beautiful state of Louisiana and being exceptionally well adapted to moist environments, these trees have unique features at their trunks. Figure 1 shows knob-like structures, called knees, protruding from the near the base of the cypress. Knees are commonly seen growing out of shallow water banks or supersaturated soil. 

Christopher H. Briand published Cypress Knees: an Enduring Enigma after inspecting over 200 years of investigations. His thorough analysis can be found here ( ; spoiler- there is no known purpose! It’s been thought that the knees aid in collecting oxygen, nutrients, or storing carbohydrates. The knees may also provide a mechanical function, further anchoring these swamp trees into the muddy soil. Eventually, each of these theories was debunked by laboratory analysis or on-site knee removal.

These trees play an instrumental role in mitigating soil erosion and floodwaters. If they want to keep their knees a secret, will let them for now.

Do you have a theory? Share it below!



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Hurricane Preparedness

Tropical storms hit our country's coast almost every single year. These storms often cause extensive damage to our rural coastlines and even our more inland neighborhoods. High winds and substantial amounts of rainfall can cause branches to break and uproot entire trees. Property damage can result from landscaping debris and falling trees. Let's take a look into how you can ensure the health of your trees and minimize your property damage risks.  


Plan Ahead

The best way to plan a more environmentally sound yard is to plan. When choosing a species, look for one that is more wind resistant. Plant trees from the "Highest" and "Medium-High" UF/IFAS Wind Resistance lists and match these to your site conditions; check with your  for updated listings. No trees are 100% storm resistance. But with proper maintenance, some species stand a better chance than others to resist storm damage. If you live in the southeast the most storm-resistant trees are live oaks, Southern magnolia, live oak, crape myrtle, bald cypress, sweetgum, bald cypress, and sabal palms. Trees with sturdy trunks, deep roots, and a low center of gravity have the highest chance of surviving a storm. Some trees with the least wind resistance are sand pine, Chinese elm, water oak, and laurel oak.


Be sure to plant trees a reasonable distance away from utilities and other structures. ( 3 m x 3 m unobstructed area for small trees. 10 x 10 for larger trees.) However, unfortunately, new trees (less than five years old) and old trees are the most susceptible to hurricane or storm damage. Young trees have roots that are not well established. Older trees may have damaged or decayed root systems. If you are concerned with the health of your tree, it should be evaluated (checked) by an International Society of Arborists-certified arborist for defects that are not visible from the ground.



A healthy tree may not fall during a storm, but its weaker braches might. Correct and timely pruning is one of the best things you can do for your tree. A winter pruning will encourage efficient branch angles (10 and 2 o'clock). Branches that have smaller angles are weaker because neither has sufficient space to add wood needed for strength. Remember; trees do not heal wounds. Trees grow over them and seal them off. 


Dense canopies may act as a sail during high wind speeds. Proper pruning will allow the wind to blow through the canopy of the tree, decreasing the chance of it toppling over. Broken, dead, or damaged branches can fail during wind load and release and may become dangerous projectiles during angry storms. Low branches close to your roof or utility lines should be monitored and potentially shortened. If your tree is close to a power line, please contact a competent, certified arborist! Let's ensure the safety of your house, electricity, and tree!



When trees have been moved or experienced nearby construction that may be at risk for blowing over during high winds. Many of these trees may have undetectable root damage from lot clearing and home construction. Even if the trees were not injured, trees that have survived land clearing are not safe. The scattered trees have not adjusted to the newly open grown conditions and higher winds. The disaggregation of loose gravelly soil may pose a threat to the stability of the tree.


Remember, healthy trees adjust quickly to changes in the environment and are maybe more resilient to storm damage. Therefore, if you are proactive and take the necessary steps to minimize storm damage before it occurs, you can reduce the risk of property damage and save yourself a great hassle and expense. Most importantly, we want you to ensure YOUR safety. As we experience in a shift in weather conditions, we are bound to see more storms. So check your yard trees and make sure they're prepared for any potential storms!

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The Case for Shade

By Gwen Kozlowski, Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program

On a hot summer day, it’s hard to resist the shade of a large tree. Planting trees to create shaded spaces has been integral into planning parks, schools and university campuses, businesses, as well as around our streets and homes. When planted properly a mature tree can save a homeowner up to 20% on energy costs (Arbor Day Foundation). For homes without air conditioning, shade trees can make the home feel cooler during summer heat.
One aspect that is often overlooked is that shade provided by trees can help reduce your risk of skin cancer. There is a complex relationship between skin cancer and sun exposure. But it is well established that prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is one of the likely causes of skin cancer.

According to research conducted at Purdue University, “urban trees reduce ultraviolet radiation, especially UV-B radiation, which is known to cause skin cancer. A person standing in direct sunlight takes 20 minutes to burn. Under a tree providing 50% coverage, it takes 50 minutes to burn. Under full shade it takes 100 minutes for one to get a sunburn.”

Trees provide this service to us for free, but it is important to remember that trees are a resource to our communities.  And like any other resource, we must invest and maintain it to ensure that trees grow tall, are healthy, and provide a full canopy of shade. So, how do you make the case for shade in your community? Plant a tree in your yard, take a class on tree stewardship, or advocate for the importance of investing in trees in your communities! #HealthyTreesHealthyLives

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Ah July – the heart of summer and a great month to get outside and explore your urban and community forests and other natural areas.   But the air quality in our urban areas, especially at this time of year, can be unhealthy.   The good news is that while the relationship between trees and air pollution is complicated, overall trees have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing air pollution, making your outdoor activities healthier and more enjoyable.
So how does air pollution impact your health and how are trees involved?

Air pollution, such as particulates (small particles usually generated by the burning of fuels to create energy) and ground level ozone (a gas which requires certain chemical compounds + heat + sunlight to form), can affect human health in many ways.  It can produce just a general feeling of discomfort, to increased respiratory difficulties like asthma, coughing, airway irritation, irregular heartbeat, and even premature death in people with heart or lung disease.  Fortunately, healthy trees play an important role in reducing air pollution.  For example, a tree’s leaves can "capture" airborne particulate pollution, especially the very small particles which are the most dangerous, removing them from the air we breathe.  Trees reduce the formation of ground level ozone by both absorbing contributing chemical compounds (such as volatile organics) through their pores and by lowering the ambient temperature.  Trees create cooling by converting water from the soil to water vapor in the atmosphere, which carries heat away from its point of origin. Since ground level ozone requires heat to form, cooler temperatures equal less ozone.  This cooling effect has the added benefit of reducing energy use.  Trees shade buildings during the summer and block winds in winter; less energy use means less air pollution generated by the production of energy for cooling and heating our buildings and vehicles.

OK, now for the complications.  Dense tree canopy can restrict airflow or trap pockets of polluted air at ground level preventing the dilution of air pollution by currents of cleaner air.  And while trees play a role in reducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) created by energy production, they themselves are VOC emitters.  In areas with a large percentage of high VOC emitting trees, ozone levels can be eight times higher than in areas with low-VOC emitting trees. Lastly, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note that trees also emit pollen, a type of particulate.  Fortunately, most pollen grains are larger than the size of particles that have the greatest impacts on human health.

So, armed with the above information, what can you do?  Take these tree related actions to improve your overall health and well-being, and reduce air pollution:

  • Plant trees and support programs that help to maintain and increase a healthy tree canopy in your town;
  • Maximize the use of low VOC emitting trees in areas with air pollution problems;
  • Strategically plant trees to reduce energy use;
  • Use long-lived and low maintenance trees to reduce pollution emissions from planting, maintenance, and tree removal;
  • Diversify your urban and community forest so that no one tree dominates; and
  • Ensure trees have enough water to enhance their cooling capabilities.

After all, a healthy relationship is worth the effort!

This bermed shelterbelt was conceived and planted as part of the Heart of Camden's Environmental Mitigation Master Plan for the Waterfront South neighborhood of Camden, NJ to overcome decades of environmental injustice.  The shelterbelt serves as a visual screen and windbreak between local industry, the County sewage treatment plant, and the historic residential neighborhood. 

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Trees and Stormwater Runoff

April showers bring May flowers…and a lot of urban stormwater runoff.  There is plenty of published research that shows that with increased urban development comes increased stormwater runoff.  Trees and urban forest systems (trees, groundcover, and soil) are natural “green” infrastructure that help to manage stormwater runoff at its source.  The parts of this system work together as a “treatment train” or series of practices designed to mitigate stormwater runoff to provide considerable stormwater volume and pollution control through rainfall interception and intensity reduction, stormwater infiltration, and nutrient uptake.2037124251?profile=RESIZE_710x

The canopy formed by urban trees intercepts rain as soon as it starts to fall.  That rainfall remains in the canopy where it eventually evaporates back into the atmosphere.  Analysis of all research looking at urban tree canopy interception shows that deciduous trees retain about 20% of the rain falling on its crown while conifers retain close to 30%.  The rest of the rain either falls through the crown to the surface below or trickles down the stem where it infiltrates into the soil around the tree.  With these numbers stormwater engineers can begin to calculate stormwater benefits of existing tree cover.

When the leaf and branch surface area in the upper part of the tree canopy is filled and cannot hold additional rainfall, excess water drips from these surfaces to those lower in the canopy. This reduces rainfall intensity by the time it drips from the canopy and delays runoff to storm drains or other stormwater control measures. This, in effect, allows the stormwater drainage system to work more efficiently and reduces the chances of it becoming overwhelmed thus helping to reduce surface flooding.

Soils provide the bulk of stormwater volume2036975824?profile=RESIZE_710x control. Macro- and micro-pores within the soil allow for temporary water storage from which trees acquire water and nutrients. Tree roots condition the soil through mechanical, biological, and chemical means, increasing its ability to store greater volumes of water. Stormwater runoff not intercepted in the canopy is directed to the soil at the base of a tree. Stemflow, or excess water traveling down the stem of the tree to the soil at its base, can penetrate deep into the soil profile as water moves along the root surfaces. READ FULL ARTICLE HERE.

This article, written by Eric Kuehler, is an excerpt for an upcoming research manual for urban foresters. Eric is Science Delivery/Technology Specialist for Urban Forestry South, US Forest Service. 

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Dealing with Summer Allergies

Have allergies got you down this season? Living in a big city, I sometimes find it hard to walk outside in warmer months. I always bring my sunglasses to protect my eyes.. but what's protecting my lungs? Nature of course! Trees have been shown to help mitigate air pollution by preventing asthma and other respiratory diseases.The Wisconsin DNR writes, 'one study found that in 2010, trees removed 17.4 million tons of air pollution across the US, which prevented 850 human deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms.' There are no words to thank trees for all the ozone and particulate matter they remove from our earth on a daily-yearly basis. Read this article here from our friends at Wisconsin DNR to learn about how trees may be a low-cost solution to cleaner air!

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BeLeaf it or Not!

‘BeLeaf it or Not!’ is our new favorite youtube account. This channel is dedicated to making fun and entertaining forestry videos for children. Each of these short videos, 5-7 minutes long, aim to teach a unique forestry topic. MSU Extension foresters have successfully channeled ‘bill nye’ vibes by creating similar wacky science videos that can complement the curriculum for elementary to middle schoolers. Although there are only 3 videos uploaded currently, the series has ideas for 30-35 episodes.

This channel has found its niche as is the first of its kind, tackling subjects such as logging, industry and forest management. Can we hope to see a cameo from our friend Smokey Bear?

Check out this amazing youtube channel here!

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Safe Camping Tips

1. Only camp in designated campgrounds.
2. Create a fire ring for your campfire and never leave it unattended.
3. Only burn wood in your campfire. Burning paper or cardboard creates ash that can be redistributed by wind.
4. Always divide your camping wastes into recyclable and not recyclable trash to take it to your nearest recycling station.
Comment additional camping tips below!
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Woodpeckers Hungry for EAB

Citizen scientist in Detroit, Mi have contributed expansive data to help tackle ecological problems. Volunteers of the local organization ‘FeederWatch’ have collected more than 4.2 million hours worth of data since 1987. Their recent research focuses on analyzing the impact of Emerald Ash Borer. Since the discovery of these invasive pests, in 2002, they have been devastating ash trees throughout the US. However, there are four populations who have begun adapting to this pest’s presence.

Although North American ash trees have no defense against these invasive pests, forest residents have stepped up to the plate. According to data provided by Feederwatchers in conjunction with the USFS, there has been a change in the distribution and abundance of local bird populations. Three species of woodpeckers have developed a taste for EAB. It appears that this pest is edible for these flying forest dwellers.

Increased populations (from 2002 to 2011) of the Downy, Hairy and Red-Bellied woodpeckers have begun fighting this biological invasion directly at the source. We applaud the appetite of these birds and hope the wrath of invasive pests can be mitigated.

We look forward to seeing the strides of local and federal organizations as they continue research to improve preparedness, recovery, and research on insect resistant forests.  



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Trees in Cemeteries

We all know that a healthy urban tree canopy is critical to the health of our communities. Starting in August of 2018 I had the opportunity to see firsthand just how important this is when I began a project with historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia raising money to preserve and protect their tree canopy. 

Oakland cemetery includes over 1600 trees and hundreds of species.  Some are saplings while others are close to 200 years old. With over 5.6 million people living in metropolitan Atlanta, having a healthy tree canopy is critical to our health. Science shows that one large tree can supply enough oxygen for four people.

And while a cemetery may not be the first place you think of when it comes to the urban forest, in fact cemeteries pre-date public parks and like Oakland, their trees provide the foundation for the natural beauty and tranquility that make these urban green spaces so inviting. Even more important, they offer countless benefits that extend, in Oakland’s case, beyond their walls to the surrounding community and neighborhoods. These include shade, cooler temperatures, clean air and habitat for wildlife and pollinators. From majestic oaks to magnificent magnolias they all play an important role.

Founded in 1850 as a rural cemetery, today Oakland is a 48-acre oasis of history, sculpture, gardens and wildlife and one of the largest public parks in the city. It is open free-of-charge to the public 364 days per year and has an annual visitation of 55,000 people. Depending on the day there are dog walkers, families visiting gravesites, friends enjoying a picnic and garden clubs taking a tour of the magnificent trees. 

Since 1982, Oakland has experienced a 50 percent reduction in its tree canopy due to drought, environmental stresses, natural disasters and old age. Fortunately a Tree Care Action Plan was created in 2012 by Spence Rosenfeld. (1952-2018), CEO and president of Arborguard Tree Specialists, as well as a former Oakland board member.  To continue to implement this plan, funds are needed.

It has been an education process to teach people that the trees in the urban forest cannot thrive unless they receive ongoing yearly care including pruning, fertilization, cabling and soil treatments. At Oakland the estimated cost for this is $40,000 per year.

We have had success and the community has responded with support for the tree canopy. To-date we have raised over $160,000 for the care and maintenance of the trees at Oakland.The message here is that when the trees thrive our communities thrive!

Erica Goldstein is a horticulturist and Coordinator for the Piedmont Park Conservancy.

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If you happened to walk down Wisconsin Avenue earlier this month, you might have noticed a towering oak tree in front of the old Fannie Mae headquarters. In the morning, the 65-foot-tall tree stood on the south edge of the property, where it was planted decades ago. By the end of the day, the tree had moved almost 100 feet north.

“It’s a beautiful day to be moving a tree!” says Paul Cox, on the chilly, slightly windy afternoon.

For Cox, it’s just another day in the office. He works for Environmental Design, a Texas-based company that specializes in relocating large trees.

Cox and his team are moving this pin oak tree to make way for a mixed-use development. Under a 2016 D.C. law, this tree, and others of its size, can’t be cut down, as long as they’re healthy. Any tree with a circumference of 100 inches or more is considered a heritage tree and cannot be removed, under the Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act of 2016.

“It’s kinda like watching paint dry,” says Paul Cox. That is, unless you speed up the video.Jacob Fenston / WAMU

Earl Eutsler, who runs D.C.’s urban forestry division, says the law is starting having a real impact. “This is the first example of a tree being relocated or transplanted to make way for development while also preserving the tree,” said Eutsler. “So we’re really excited.” Other developers have chosen to build around trees, and a few have been issued hefty fines — starting at $30,000 — for illegally removing heritage trees.

So how do you move a 65-foot-tall tree?

Very slowly.

“It’s kinda like watching paint dry,” says Cox, as he watches his crew at work around the tree. “Generally speaking, when things are going according to the plan, which they do about half the time, it’s about 100 feet per hour.”

Workers began more than a year ago, pruning the tree’s roots. In recent weeks, they excavated the area around the tree, then shoved 35 large metal pipes under the roots, creating a platform. Then they wedged a series of long rubber air bagsunder the pipes. Once ready to move the tree, workers inflate the air bags, lifting the tree slowly out of the ground.

Inflating the air bags.Jacob Fenston / WAMU

As the tree rises, it tilts toward the street. But nobody seems concerned.

When all the air bags are full, two excavators are chained to the tree’s platform. They give a tug, and the enormous living organism, as tall as a six-story building, begins its journey, rolling over the inflated bags. Cox says the tree and root ball likely weigh around 600,000 pounds.

Why move a tree?

When Fannie Mae sold its headquarters at 3900 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, about two years ago, developers snapped up the 10-acre, sparsely built campus. Richard Lake, co-founder of Roadside Development, says the project will include roughly 700 residential units and 200,000 square feet of commercial space, including the city’s first Wegmans grocery store. The old Fannie Mae building, facing Wisconsin, will become a hotel or office space, with a park-like square in front.

The pin oak tree was sitting smack in the way of a driveway for Wegmansdelivery trucks.

Richard Lake shows a video of the future development. The driveway where the pin oak was is shown on the left.Jacob Fenston / WAMU

If the project had been done a few years ago, developers could have applied for a permit, paid a fee, and chopped down the oak with approval from the city. But under the 2016 heritage tree law, that’s no longer an option.

So Lake’s team decided to relocate this tree, and two other heritage trees on the property — moving them all to what will be a grassy area right in front of the main building.

It’s not cheap. “I think our total cost is close to $200,000 per tree,” says Lake.

The price tag is worth it, according to Lake, even though it’s much more than the fines would be for breaking the law. These big, mature trees, he says, create a sense of place, a sense of history.

“We’re trying not to create a fake place; we’re trying to create as real a place as we can, as authentic a place as we can,” he says.

Jessica Sanders, director of science and policy at the non-profit Casey Trees, says as trees mature, the benefits they provide increase exponentially.

“Everyone can understand on a hot summer day, you walk under a very large tree, it’s beautiful. It’s shaded, it’s cooler. Whereas a newer tree, you don’t experience that right away. So trees, much like humans, take a long time to mature and develop.”

Sanders says that’s why it’s important to protect these trees. She says D.C.’s heritage tree law is one of the most protective in the nation.

Mark Buscaino, executive director of Casey Trees, says getting there was no easy thing.

“I think it’s the culmination of 20 years of struggle in the city,” says Buscaino, who used to be the city’s chief forester. “At that time, the city’s budgets were at a low. There were 5,000 dead or dying trees on the streets, cars were getting crushed. I mean the list goes on and on,” says Buscaino.

Now, he says, the District is making progress toward its goal of increasing tree cover to 40 percent of the city. “It speaks not just to the fact that the city cares about its trees, but it speaks about a cultural change.”

This article was written by Jacob Fenston, environmental reporter, and reshared on American Grove from WAMU 88.5. The original article can be accessed here.

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As the holiday season comes to a close each year, people across the country face an important question: what should we do with our well-loved, and now quite dry, Christmas trees? For the past 28 years in Georgia, the Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation and its network of affiliates have provided an answer: recycle them!

Although the popularity of artificial trees has risen over the years, real trees provide a sustainable solution for families and wildlife alike. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, nearly 350 million Christmas trees currently grow on U.S. farms, absorbing carbon dioxide, emitting fresh oxygen, stabilizing soil, protecting water supplies, and providing refuge for wildlife. For each tree harvested, one to three seedlings are planted in its place, making them a renewable resource, and when people purchase them, they also support local economies.

That environmental stewardship continues when individuals make the choice to recycle their trees in January. Through Keep Georgia Beautiful’s “Bring One for the Chipper” program, trees are collected at over 130 locations throughout the state and repurposed in ways that benefit the environment. The program transforms a large number of trees into mulch for playgrounds, city and county landscaping projects, and individual homes, and sinks others into lakes to create fish habitats. Since the program’s inception, communities across Georgia have diverted over 6 million trees from landfills.

“Bring One for the Chipper” has become a widespread environmental tradition in Georgia. Thanks to partners like The Home Depot, The Davey Tree Expert Company, Georgia Forestry Commission, 11 Alive, Ferry Morse Seed Company, Burpee Seed Company, and One Tree Planted, communities have the drop-off locations, media promotion, and chipper services they need to be successful. Participants also receive complimentary tree seedlings or flower and vegetable seeds to take home with them. Along with the enthusiasm and dedication of nearly 1,000 local volunteers, these resources encourage residents across the state to return year after year.

So if you live in Georgia, visit on December 21 to find a ‘treecycling’ location near you. If you reside in another state, check with the nonprofits, local businesses, and recycling providers in your area – although “Bring One for the Chipper” is one of the largest events of its kind in the nation, opportunities for recycling trees are increasing in every city and town. It’s easy to do your part to make the holiday season sustainable!

About Keep Georgia Beautiful

Keep Georgia Beautiful has a 40 year history of doing the little things that make a big difference in Georgia communities. Established as the first-ever state affiliate of Keep America Beautiful in 1978 by Governor George Busbee, Keep Georgia Beautiful became a 501(3)c nonprofit in 2011 and builds sustainable communities through litter prevention, waste reduction, recycling, water resource management, and community greening. Keep Georgia Beautiful provides support to the largest network of local affiliates in the country, and our 78 local programs represent 80% of Georgia’s population. For more information, visit and follow us on FacebookInstagramandTwitter.

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The US Endowment is dedicated to preserving natural forests and improving the everyday lives and health of forest-rich rural communities. "Our goal is to make future development more sustainable" proclaims Carlton Owen, the CEO and President of US Endowment for Forestry and Communities. A giant step to create sustainable development is to utilize sustainable building material. Researchers from around the world have begun experimenting with environmentally friendly building material. The most recent laboratory breakthrough is the implementation of cellulosic nanomaterials (CN). This material is made from reducing wood to its thinnest and strongest component. Scientists at the US Forest Service Forest Products lab claim that this new material is just as strong as steel and 1/5 the weight. This material shows promise in applications such as computer technology, aircraft maintenance and building materials. This organization aims to improve concrete by adding CN to the matrix. The manufacturing of concrete is a labor-intensive process that creates an enormous amount of greenhouse gases. The addition of CN will decrease the amount of energy needed to create concrete, reducing emissions, while even improving the strength of the original material. The US Endowment has organized three field applications to test the durability and strength of this material. This material has been implemented in two small study sites in Madison Wi and northern California. The biggest test of this material is the rebuilding of a 100 x 40 ft parking lot in Greenville, South Carolina. In these three areas, the integrity of CN infused concrete will be tested. 

Read the full press release on this innovation material here.

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Virginia's Big Tree Program

November's guest blogger is Eric Wiseman, associate professor of urban forestry and arboriculture and a Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. Additionally he is coordinator of the Virginia’s Big Tree Program. The roots of this program can be traced back to1970. Today this program is run by the Department of Forest Resources and environmental conservationist throughout the state of Virginia. The mission of Virginia's Big Tree Program is to increase appreciate and care for trees of all sizes (not just big trees like the name suggests). Additionally the team aims to educate about the value of trees and forests. Over 300 different tree species can be found on the Virginia Big Tree register.  Accompanying each tree is information about its size, location and unique characteristics. Virginia is consistently ranked among the top 5 states for national champion trees, and there’s no surprise why! Visit the website here to search, browse, measure, or submit a tree. After scrolling through this register I'm itching for a trip to Virginia!

Which tree is your favorite? Have you seen any of these trees in person?

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Nascar Green Race Campaign

Each weekend between February and November, racecars speed around the track towards the green flag. With the create of Nascar green Raced Campaign, this organization has also demonstrated its drive to environmental sustainability. Since 2008 Nascar has partnered with over 15 stakeholders (the largest being The Arbor Day Foundation) who prioritize sustainability above all. The goal of this campaign is to reduce and offset environmental impacts that can not be avoided. A few examples of these strides include the use of blended biofuel, in-venue recycling efforts, solar-powered light fixtures etc. Since the creation of this program over 400,000 trees have been planted across the country. A major focus on areas affected by natural disasters.
On November 3rd, this campaign distributed 500 new trees to homeowners in Houston who were affected by Hurrican Harvey. Hurricane Harvey was a category 4 storm that hit the coast of Texas 3 times. When this storm was at its peak, 1/3 of Houston was completely underwater. “The people of Texas have suffered great personal and physical loss,” said Dan Lambe, Arbor Day Foundation President. “By replanting, we strive to bring healing and hope to the people and the communities in which they live as well as help return the beauty and the value trees bring back to their properties.”

Learn more about the amazing accomplishments of the campaign here.

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By Annie Hermansen-Báez, US Forest Service 

Think back to your fondest memories of childhood. What comes to mind? I would bet that most of you would talk about that time you made a tree house with your dad, or long summer days playing in the woods, climbing trees, and running through the nearby creek unsupervised for hours on end.

Many children today, however, do not have these experiences. Children today play outside less often and for briefer periods. We are just starting to understand the many effects of this change on our youth’s wellbeing. Playtime, especially unstructured, imaginative, exploratory play, is increasingly recognized as an essential component of wholesome child development. It is also recognized that children are also more physically active when they are outside.

Additionally, research has confirmed the restorative effects of even limited contact with nature for both children and adults in attention restoration and managing symptoms of attention deficit disorders (Berman and others 2008). Research is also demonstrating the multiple benefits of exposure to nature in a school environment, such as increased student achievement, motivation, behavior, and understanding of concepts taught.

Some of the key benefits of nature exposure include:

Healthier kids. Outdoor activity can improve children’s health by helping to prevent and treat obesity and associated health problems, as well as mental health issues. One study at the University of Washington of almost 4,000 children found that children living in greener areas have a lower body mass index and gained weight more slowly over the study period than children with less access to green space.

Additionally, Cornell University environmental psychologists found that a view of nature can help protect children against stress and that nature in or around the home appears to be a significant factor aiding the psychological well-being of children. And a study in Illinois of 400 children diagnosed with ADHD found a link between the children’s routine play settings and the severity of their symptoms. Those that play in outdoor settings with lots of green have milder ADHD symptoms than those who play indoors or in built outdoor environments.

Natural settings can also play a significant role in helping traumatized children. Nature can provide a place for children to clear their minds and reflect in solitude after going through an upsetting time in their life.

Increased social interaction. One reason for the emotional benefits of nature may be that green space promotes social interaction and thereby fosters social support. Studies are finding that outdoor kids are better able to relate to other children and adults and have more realistic life expectations. A Swedish study found that children and parents who live in places that allow for outdoor access have twice as many friends as those who have restricted outdoor access due to traffic concerns.

Enhanced creativity. Nature can enhance creativity, problem solving, self-esteem, and self-control. Studies in the U.S., Sweden, Australia, and Canada of children in schoolyards with both green areas and manufactured play areas found that children engaged in more creative forms of play in green areas, such as more fantasy and make-believe play. They are more likely to create their own games in play environments dominated by natural areas rather than solely playground structures.

Parent-child engagement. Nature also provides increased opportunities for parents to fully engage with their children – be it playing together at the beach, walking in the woods, or fishing together. This engagement provides a range of benefits for the wellbeing of children.

Improved school performance. Research has shown that outdoor learning is associated with gains in learning. A landmark study by Lieberman and Hoody (1998) found that outdoor education resulted in better standardized test performance, increased engagement, and reduced classroom management problems. Similarly, we are finding significant gains in middle school students’ knowledge of the scientific process through participation in our outdoor science learning program called Kids in the Woods at Westwood Middle School in Gainesville, FL.  Through this program all sixth grade students (approximately 350 to 400 students per year) at Westwood participate in outdoor studies on the school campus and in a nearby urban nature park throughout the school year.

Get Involved

Pediatricians and other public health officials, parents, schools, natural resource agencies, and many others can play an important part in encouraging kids to get outdoors. Pediatricians can consider “prescribing” outdoor play for physical and mental health benefits. Particular emphasis should be on unstructured, exploratory play. Parents (and other extended family members) can have a tremendous effect by making sure that kids get outdoor play time every day. One simple way that schools can have a considerable effect is just by making sure kids get enough recess time. They can also encourage outdoor learning opportunities and green the schools- studies have shown the soothing effects of greenery on children in a learning environment - and include the study of local flora and fauna in lessons. Natural resource agencies are also promoting more outdoor time for kids through programs such as the US Forest Service’s Kids in the Woods program (, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s School Backyard program (

For more information contact Annie Hermansen-Baez, US Forest Service – Southern Research Station, 352-376-3271,

Annie Hermansen-Báez is the Science Delivery/Kids in the Woods Coordinator for the USDA Forest Service’s Urban Forestry South (Southern Research Station and Region 8 Partnership) located in Gainesville, FL. Her work focuses on directing a regionwide science delivery program that develops and delivers information to increase our understanding of the interactions between natural and human systems in urban and urbanizing landscapes, covering topics such as children and nature, human health and nature connection, outdoor learning, wildland-urban interface, and more. She also leads Kids in the Woods and green schools programs at local middle and elementary schools.



Berman, Marc; Jonides, John; Kaplan, S. 2009. The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting with Nature. Psychological Science 19(12): 1207-12.

Lieberman, Gerald; Hoody, Linda. 1998. Closing the Achievement Gap: Using the Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning.

Taylor, Andrea; Kuo, Frances. 2011. Could Exposure to Everyday Green Spaces Help Treat ADHD? Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being

Wells, Nancy; Evans, Gary. 2003. Nearby Nature: A Buffer of Life Stress Among Rural Children. Environment and Behavior Vol 35:3

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Preparing Your Urban Forest For Storms

Written by:Josh Behounek  

Storm preparation is a huge concern amongst all citizens and departments within a community, urban forestry is no different. When a storm event occurs trees and other woody debris are oftentimes one of the 1st things a community must deal with. Trees will fail and impact roadways, utility lines, street lights, intersections, homes, and people. Figure 1 indicates that trees will fail during storms. Being prepared will minimize negative impacts. 

Before power can be restored and primary responders can do their jobs, trees will need to be pruned, removed and cleaned up. While it is impossible to be completely “prepared” for a storm incident it is possible to be ready to react and minimize negative impacts from your trees.

Your urban forest is made up of both public and private trees and this resource is an important part of the community’s infrastructure.  Urban forests provide a host of environmental functions/services from avoiding stormwater runoff, reducing energy consumption, increasing property values, absorbing CO2, and improving the quality of life in a community. Unlike other components of a community’s infrastructure, trees and urban forests continue to appreciate in value as they age and get larger therefore increasing environmental functions/services.

Within a community, there are two types of trees - Assets and Liabilities. Trees that are assets are the right tree planted in the right place for the right reason and do not pose an unacceptable level of risk to the community. Trees that are liabilities do pose an unacceptable level of risk to the community and do not provide environmental function. Like any other piece of community infrastructure, trees need maintenance and upkeep. Part of that maintenance plan should be storm preparation.

When dealing with a storm there are three distinct phases. The initial phase is all about preparation before the storm event. The second phase is what you are doing during the actual storm, and the third phase is following the storm event. For the purposes of this article we will focus the bulk of the discussion around storm preparedness.

Storm Preparation - The Calm Before The Storm

Storms are going to happen and being prepared is a good idea. But what does it mean to prepare your urban forest? At the most basic level an urban forest that is prepared for a storm event will be more resilient. This will save you time and money as well as provide a higher level of service to your residents.

Tree Risk Assessments

We can not make our trees 100% safe all of the time but we can make them safer more of the time by conducting Tree Risk Assessments. Tree risk assessments should be a component of every community’s Urban Forest Management Plan and should be performed by qualified personnel. There are three levels of tree risk assessment that can and should be performed throughout a community. Level 1 inspection is a simple drive-by or walk-by “windshield” survey done annually. Level 2 is a 360° inspection taken from the ground level without the use of specialized equipment. Level 3 inspection is also 360° but involves specialized equipment like an aerial lift, drone, Resistograph, etc 

There are many types of tree risk assessment protocols out there but the most common one is the newest Best Management Practice (BMP) developed by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). This methodology evaluates the “condition of concern” of a whole tree, branch, or trunk. This ISA BMP methodology evaluates:

  • Likelihood of Failure
  • Likelihood of Impacting a Target
  • Consequences of the Failure

By conducting a regularly scheduled tree risk assessment of your urban forest you can prioritize work that has been identified as posing the most risk. Trees that have the highest risk should be prioritized for needed maintenance such as removal, pruning or cabling/bracing. Another possible option is to move the target like a picnic table, parked car, etc. See the Elgin Case Study Example for how proactive risk mitigation can save you time and money. 

Urban Forestry Storm Response and Recovery Plans

Including trees within a community’s storm and/or emergency response plans is highly recommended. As stated earlier, one of the 1st issues that needs to be addressed when responding to a storm is clearing the streets and power lines from downed trees. Communication is key to ensuring that priority services are restored as soon as possible following a storm event. Most communities probably have some sort of emergency response plan or system in place but not a lot incorporate an urban forest specific response plan.

The primary challenge from an urban forestry perspective with these types of plans is that once the initial clean up is completed there is still usually a large amount of debris and work that needs to be dealt with. Immediately following a storm event, the roads and power lines are cleared but homeowners and the community still need to clean up all the other debris. A good Urban Forest Storm Response and Recovery Plan incorporates priority streets to open and remaining debris to manage. This oftentimes includes the use of temporary “marshalling yards”, renting of specialized equipment like tub grinders, and bringing in contractors or using staff from other departments to help.


A tool that can be useful for predicting how much debris a storm may produce is i-Tree Storm. This is a free software created by the USDA Forest Service and can be found at i-Tree Storm uses 2% random street segments to inventory trees > 6” diameter within 50 feet of either side of the right-of-way. By using i-Tree Storm a community can better predict how much debris that will need to be cleaned up following a storm event. This software can also be used immediately following a storm to measure how much debris needs to be cleaned up.

Storm Response and Clean Up

The clean up after a storm event can take anywhere from a couple of days to weeks and months depending on the severity of the storm and the condition of the urban forest. One of the 1st steps that a community should take once a storm has passed is to conduct a Level 1 Rapid Assessment. This windshield “inventory” should be done by a qualified arborist that can properly identify immediate high risk trees. This assessment should be done on all public streets and properties that were affected by the storm. The Texas Forest Service has developed a free Level 1 Tree Risk Assessment mobile app that can be found in the App Store and Google Play.

If the storm is too large for your community to adequately respond there is a high likelihood that FEMA will be deployed.  The US Forest Service in partnership with several state agencies has also developed the Urban Forest Strike Team (UFST). UFST crews can be deployed immediately following a storm to assist communities in need that don’t have staff with urban forest management expertise to reduce unnecessary loss of urban tree canopy. The UFST was created because oftentimes trees are removed that could have recovered and hazardous trees that should have been removed were retained. The UFST can help avoid these types of mistakes.

Storms have the power to cause local and widespread devastation that will affect your urban tree canopy. Being prepared for a storm by implementing proactive management strategies based off of a current tree inventory will help to minimize damage and save your community time and money. By incorporating trees into an Emergency Response Plan or creating an Urban Forest Storm Preparedness Plan you will help your community respond to a storm event efficiently and effectively. Once a storm event has happened it is critical that a Level 1 Tree Assessment be conducted to find high-risk trees. If the event is large enough and outside assistance is warranted then the Urban Forest Strike Team can be brought in to make decisions on what trees should be removed and which should be retained.

Josh Behounek is an ISA Certified Arborist and a member of the Southern Illinois University Agricultural Leadership Board. He is a coordinator of urban forestry services with Davey Resource Group based in central Missouri. 

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Sticking it to the Paper Industry

It’s easy to take for granted the value of self-adhesive products. I can guarantee my productivity would be nonexistent if it weren’t for the simple salvation of portable post-it notes. The little reminders are constantly being moved from paper to paper, desk to door, reminding me of the things I’ve forgotten (and sometimes purposefully neglect). I’d be curious to know how many birthday presents were wrapped by sentimental scientist before the realization that there is an opportunity for innovation in the realm of adhesives.

An ambitious group of engineers from the University of Delaware (UD) has been studying ways to remove waste outputs from the paper industry. Following the intensive process of converting entire trees into paper and paper products, leftover materials are discarded to landfills. It was discovered that the paper industry has so much excess biomass that delivering any product to science for upcycling is cheaper than alternative landfill costs. Therefore UD has been receiving leftover materials by the truckload, totally free as if this industry is begging to be rid of it. One such material which is important to the UD engineers is lignin.

Lignin, a tightly bonded polymer in vascular plants, is produced within cell wall of woody plants. This naturally created compound has a comparable structural integrity to manmade petroleum-based polymers. Lignin is one of the toughest photosynthetic molecules to manipulate- a testament to the ambition of these brave chemical engineers. Scientists have tested various processes to efficiently break down these compounds for further human manipulation. The most successful efforts have been led by Dr.Thomas H. Epps. Dr.Epps suggests, “lignin could be used to make adhesives with similar strength, toughness, and scratch resistance to the petroleum-based versions."

Currently, researchers at UD have been working with lignin from poplar trees. However, the science suggests that other species will yield varying results. Swapping the source of lignin may alter the strength and longevity of the adhesive. This claim hints at the future of upcycled adhesives from duct to electrical tape. Will we see a rejuvenate line of adhesive materials in stores soon?

Watch out Scotch tape, a new material may be sticking to the shelves!

Read more here.

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Teach your Children (with apologies to Crosby, Stills and Nash)

Recently, my dear 84-year-old mother sent me a birthday card with her usual signature, “M.E.”  It’s a curious thing, since her real initials are B.C. She has been signing her notes, cards and letters to her children (and now grandchildren) that way since the 70’s.  I remember explaining this oddity to my husband, and later my daughters. We grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, a progressive region of California then and now. In 1968, my mother decided that we would recycle, stop using printed paper towels, and we would do our part to “Save the Earth.” We embraced the “Ecology Now” movement at our home. From that, my sister and I began to call our Mom, “Mother Earth." She embraced it, and still does today, hence the initials.

For my siblings and me, our own “Mother Earth” was our nature enthusiast. She let me bring snakes into the garage, allowed me the opportunity to raise tadpoles from the creek in a salad bowl on the kitchen counter, and taught me how to capture ladybugs and keep them in jars. As a family, we camped among the redwoods of Northern California, along rivers and creeks with the Sycamores and Oaks, and at the beach with the windblown Monterey pines. In our garden orchards, we grew peaches, pears, nectarines and plums, all in the name of clean living and no pesticides. It is no wonder that my siblings and I enjoy nature the way we do as adults.

Later, when I became a mom, I knew that I wanted to be like my own mother and impart the wisdom of the earth to my children. And for my two daughters, they had no choice. It was all about trees. They hiked the Sierras and the Rockies learning about what grows at different elevations. They spent Saturday mornings pulling shovels out of my truck, helping me get ready for community tree events. On the carpools home from school, they enthusiastically pointed out the bad pruning work along our route. My now-grown children can plant a tree correctly and teach others to do the same. They can go to a nursery and pick out the right tree, for the right place, to plant at the right time. They understand the consequences of topping and poor tree care. They get the value of trees to communities because they have heard about it relentlessly. (I am not sorry, Katy and Mary!) I am honored by their love of all things bark, wood, and leaves.

But here is the truth; it doesn’t matter if you are celebrating Mother’s Day on May 13 or not. As people who love trees and understand their value to communities, it is our obligation to pass on our knowledge not only to our children, (if we indeed are parents), but also to those that don’t know of the importance of trees to our future. We are the teachers of nature at this time. My teacher happened to be my mother. Yours may have been someone else significant in your life. Take the time to honor them, and impart the importance of nature, and especially trees, to others. Happy Mother’s Day!

Dana Karcher is an ISA Certified Arborist, community volunteer, and all-around nature enthusiast. She lives in Nebraska, where she manages the Alliance for Community Trees program at the Arbor Day Foundation. Most importantly, she is the mother of two tree lovers.


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